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Democracy trampled - The Hindu

Editorial ()
February 23, 1998

Title: Democracy trampled
Author: Editorial
Publication: The Hindu
Date: February 23, 1998

BY DISMISSING THE Kalyan Singh Government and swearing in Mr.
Jagadambika Pal as Chief Minister in a late-night ceremony, the Uttar
Pradesh Governor, Mr. Romesh Bhandari, has trampled upon democratic
conventions and misused the Governor's office for partisan ends. After
Mr. Kalyan Singh had made it clear to Mr. Bhandari that he was willing
to prove his majority on the floor of the Assembly, the only course left
to the Governor was to convene the House. This, after all, is the burden
of the Supreme Court's verdict in the S. R. Bommai case. Instead, Mr.
Bhandari resorted to the discredited and unconstitutional practice of
doing the number count in the Raj Bhavan. All this just on the eve of
polling in several constituencies in the State. After this brazen act,
Mr. Bhandari can in no way be allowed to continue in office. One would
expect the Government, in consultation with the President, Mr. K. R.
Narayanan, who is reported to be concerned over the blatant violation of
constitutional norms by Mr. Bhandari, to act immediately to remove him
>from office.
It is not for the first time that Mr. Bhandari allowed himself to be
guided by such partisan considerations. A few months ago, he recommended
the imposition of Central rule in Uttar Pradesh within a couple of hours
of Mr. Kalyan Singh proving his majority on the floor of the Assembly.
The situation could be saved only after the President intervened. One
expected Mr. Bhandari to quit on his own after that but he clung to the
office. Similarly, one expected the United Front Government, for all its
avowed commitment to federal and democratic principles, to recommend Mr.
Bhandari's recall. Instead, it let Mr. Bhandari continue and one cannot
but question the claims by this combine to represent the spirit of true
That the Samajwadi Party - the most important constituent of the U.F. in
Uttar Pradesh - did not find anything amiss in lending support to the
new Government only suggests that Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav and, by
extension, the Front saw in Mr. Bhandari a pliable Governor who could be
counted upon to support any of their machinations. The manner in which
the Samajwadi Party, the BSP, the Congress(I) and the Janata Dal acted
even as the drama unfolded in Lucknow on Saturday afternoon establishes
beyond doubt that the script was written much earlier and one cannot but
suspect Mr. Bhandari's role in the whole scheme right from the start.
Instead of taking on the BJP politically, the U.F. parties and the
Congress(I) as well as the BSP had indulged unabashedly in such
opportunist games. That they could make a virtue of the action of the
Lok Tantric Congress and Janata Dal(R) MLAs smacks of crass opportunism
and does not show any commitment to political principles.
But, despite the constitutional impropriety involved, there is no way
that the BJP can claim to be above board. After all, the manner in which
Mr. Kalyan Singh managed a majority five months ago first by splitting
the Congress(I), the BSP and the Janata Dal and then rewarding with
ministerial berths all those who hopped to his side, in defiance of the
mandate of the electorate, was as much brazen as the turn of events in
Lucknow on Saturday. Even though Mr. Bhandari's action may not stand
judicial scrutiny and the courts may strike it down and restore the
Ministry - in the context of the Supreme Court verdict in the Bommai
case - one would expect all major players involved to commit themselves
to fresh polls in the State. Any further effort to cobble up a majority
- be it by the BJP or the non-BJP parties - will amount to nothing but a
farce on the democratic system. The only option left now is to hold
fresh elections and here one would expect the parties to forge pre-poll
alliances rather than scramble to put together a government with those
whom they engaged in a bitter fight in the polls.

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